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World Travel Log

Follow James and Jay on a trip around the world.

Dec '09

Bali is in the Airport

On arrival to Despensar, I had to purchase a $25 Visa on Arrival (VOA) before going through Immigration. Just over an hour passed from the time I landed until the time I touched my checked-baggage. Before I could grab my bag, a man with some kind of badge grabbed it and escorted me to the security screening area. While troubling, the process seemed official. Then the escort continued past the guards, with guns, to a specific money changer. At this point, I realized the guy carrying my bag was wearing a shirt that said “porter.” The “badge” was just some phony looking thing, to give him minimal credibility. The man refused to return my bag until I gave him 20,000Rp ($20). Welcome to Bali.

When I returned to the airport, I heard “Boss! hey Boss! Checking bags boss?!” as I walked from security to the check-in counter. The guy was selling a service to wrap my backpack in plastic. Checked-in and heading for the gate I was met with another check-point. It was necessary to pay $15 to exit the country. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in Bali is free. After paying the airport tax, I went through passport control and into the gate area.

The first shop there sold Bintang towels, t-shirts, and etc. Just like the shops on the street, there were no prices. When I asked the price of the towel, I was told it was 9000Rp ($9) but got the distinct impression I could have haggled for lower. Other shops sold sunglasses, illegal DVD copies, hand-carved knick-knacks, and just about everything I saw on the streets throughout Bali. Most had at least one person outside asking, “Have a look boss?” There were several massage places, complete with women standing in front asking “Massage?” And lastly, a nearly fatal mistake would be making eye contact with a person holding a restaurant menu. They would stand in my way, trying to convince me I was hungry.

About an hour before our flight, Jay and I started walking around again trying to keep awake. We passed a nicely dressed man in front of an escalator who said, “Airport Lounge?” Instinctively, I said, “No!” Then asked, how much it cost and what was included. His answer is the beauty of Indonesia. For 10,000Rp ($10) the Lounge was quiet, included free food, free drinks (including alcohol), a shower, and Internet access.

For all of Bali’s faults, it has two exceptionally redeeming values: it is cheap and it is beautiful. These come at a cost, but it isn’t monetary. If you don’t have time to spend at a place like Kuta Beach, then get a connecting flight through Despensar Airport. The hour or two you spend there will give you a full sense of Bali, without getting sand in your shoes.

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